Heirloom Quinoa Salad from a trip to Franklin Southie in Boston

One of the perks that comes with working at Oldways, the parent company of the Whole Grains Council, is that I’m constantly learning (and sampling) new and sometimes exotic foods. It’s been well-documented on this blog that my culinary knowledge was incredibly minimal when I started working here two years ago, but my education has grown considerably thanks to the Oldways school of thought, especially when it comes to whole grains. Here are some of my favorite new ways to make half my grains whole: 1.) Quinoa Let’s be honest: I didn’t even know how to say quinoa (KEEN-WAH) before I was hired here, and now I’m the one teaching the employees at Whole Foods the correct pronunciation. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that I had a slightly terrifying cooking incident involving quinoa and a certain dinosaur-sized insect, but I’ve since recovered and gotten back to making quinoa salads whenever I like, which is often. Quinoa is light and fluffy, with an almost creamy texture that goes down smooth. I never feel gross or too stuffed after eating a bowl of this stuff, and when my tummy is happy, I’m happy. 2.) Farro When we heard Uno Chicago Grill was revamping its menu and adding things like whole grain pasta to the mix, I knew I had to go see it for myself. So I went to the location nearest to me on the south shore of Massachusetts and much to my surprise, I saw a listing for Farro Salad. “A whole wheat grain, cooked like pasta and mixed with diced tomatoes, cucumbers and balsamic vinaigrette. Fantastically healthy for you.” As I came to find out, not only is farro fantastically healthy for you, it’s fantastically delicious as well, and it makes a great substitute for a usual side of French fries. Since I’m pretty sure you have an Uno’s in your neighborhood, why don’t you go out and give it a try for yourself this weekend? Have your own personal Whole Grains Challenge! 3.) Buckwheat Another perk about working at a food non-profit is that my co-workers enjoy experimenting in the kitchen and then bringing the results into the office for taste tests. It’s a hard job, but I somehow find the inner strength to help them out every once and a while. When one of my co-workers brought in homemade Buckwheat Polenta, I hesitated. Yes, I’m pretty open-minded when it comes to trying new foods (I ate fried alligator once in North Carolina if that tells you anything) but I wasn’t sure about buckwheat, nor was I so jazzed about trying polenta either. But lo and behold, it tasted like heaven! Melted right in my mouth with a dose of flavor that I can’t really liken to anything else. That’s the danger in trying new foods: it might be terrible, but it might also be awesome. What are YOUR favorite whole grains? If you want to learn more, stay glued to our Twitter for live updates during the Whole Grains: The New Norm Conference in Portland, Oregon from January 31st — February 2nd.

- Alison

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